Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Little Track Time in the All-New Lexus RC

I'm not the kind of guy who gets all giddy over driving on a race track. Truth be told: I'd much rather spend the day off roading than taking laps at a track. Don't get me wrong; zipping around a track is fun, but it's not my favorite thing. Fortunately, in my line of nonwork, I occasionally get to off road as well as clocking some track time.

My latest track experience was courtesy of Lexus. Showing off its all-new RC to some media types a few weeks ago, it chose the Monticello Motor Club in New York for the lion's share of the day's driving. We did spend about two hours motoring RCs to the track from the Ritz Carlton in West Plains where Lexus boarded the press for the one night it hosted us. But, the bulk of the day was spent at MMC.

MMC is a private race track where well-heeled members pay exorbitant sums to belong and have access to the track. These weekend track warriors are high-end sports-car gentry of sorts. If I had that sort of dough to indulge myself, I'd have a yacht crewed by babes in thong bikinis or a private jet with a stripper pole, but that's just me. I suppose I should be glad there are people happy to underwrite such an enterprise because it's then available for paycheck-to-paycheck schlubs like me to use as a carmaker's guest. 

The meticulously maintained facility itself is fairly spectacular. Located about 90 miles from NYC, it consists of 4.1 miles of road-course track located on 175 wooded acres. There are 22 turns and 450 feet of elevation changes. There is a five-mile off-road course, as well as a 0.6-mile go-kart track. Members enjoy a clubhouse with a bar, dining and lounge areas. There are temperature-controlled garages and car storage. It's everything a person, bored and needing more after two hours of playing “Need for Speed Rivals” on Xbox, could possibly want.

Although they broke up the longest straightaway for our visit – a prudent move indeed – we otherwise used the track to its fullest capacity.

Over the years, some have bellyached about the blandness of some Lexus and Toyota styling. Such a charge won't be leveled at the RC. A two-door 2+2 coupe, RC is sleek and chiseled. Available in two basic flavors – RC 350 and RC F – it adds a sporty dimension to those on the market for an IS-sized sport coupe.

As the $43,715 RC 350, it comes with the familial 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 found in the IS 350 and GS 350. This is plenty of get-up-and-go for most drivers under most conditions. Lexus uses an eight-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission to turn the rear wheels. This marriage is good for 22 mpg in combined driving. The base version of the new coupe relies on comfort and luxury to win the hearts and minds of its owners. Sure it handles well with uber-responsive steering, but it is aimed more at drivers wanting to look the part of “boy racer” rather than acting the part. There is an F-Sport version that butches things up a bit with bigger wheels, sport suspension, rear-wheel steering and more supportive seats.

RC F cockpit.
Those wishing to straighten the twisties and rip the paint off of the fences it passes will want to pony up $63,325 for the RC F. This brute gets a 467-horsepower 5-liter V8 with the same eight-speed tranny. Hitting 60 from a standstill requires 4.4seconds; yet, it still gets 19 mpg in combined driving.You can even turn off the stability control for hair-on-fire trips around the track.

Both RCs are packed full of high-tech geegaws and over-the-top goodies.

I probably took a dozen laps of the track, mostly in the RC-F. It is really a car engineered for driving fast for people who haven't been trained to drive fast. It's pretty damn forgiving. 

For someone who can take or leave driving on a race track, I was impressed with the RC-F's poise, agility, speed and stability.